Given the nature of their Round Eight victory over the Power, it was no surprise to see it given considerable air time on the various Monday night footy shows. The panelists on each program – On The Couch, AFL 360, and Footy Classified – lavishing the team with considerable praise. Their main focus being the mature way in which they went about their business, the Rowan Marshall/Paddy Ryder ruck combination, and the second coming of Brett Ratten as a senior coach.
It was line ball but, no doubt helped by the presence of former skipper Nick Riewoldt, On The Couch was the most excited about what is happening
at Moorabbin in Noosa. “Righto Rooey, let’s get stuck into the exciting mob of the weekend, and that’s your old mob the Saints,” host Gerard Healy introduced the segment we’d all been waiting for. If you were worried that you had been impatient in waiting till the half-way point of the show, Riewoldt put those fears to rest.
“About time,” Riewoldt responded. “Your only about three weeks too late Gerard.”
“I think you might have gone a little bit earlier than that but isn’t fantastic to see a new group coming through playing exciting football.”
New Additions Doing their Part
“It is a new group,” Johnathan Brown interjected excitedly. “It’s absolutely a new group. Have you ever seen a team nail their recruiting over the offseason more than what St Kilda have? Jones, Butler, Howard, Hill, Ryder, have come into the side and they’ve nailed them. All of them had a real good contribution. Show this bit of vision I think this sums up St Kilda really well,” Brown said.
“It just encapsulates their development this year, it’s got everything. It’s got the recruits, the run, the speed, the movement, the pressure. Their ability to go from contest to contest. I just think their work rate across the field has been fantastic. Hill’s been a lot better the last two weeks he’s really pushing hard. Rowan Marshall is able to have a contribution as a ruckman, Jones touches the footy and their making aerial contests. Even though King, this goes over the back, he’s jumping and launching at the ball. And St Kilda, how often have we seen this, they’re kicking easy goals out the back,” the former Lion star explained.
Most importantly, he felt, was the Saints improvement in post-clearance contested possession or ground ball. “They were 16th in that stat last year St Kilda, this year they are ranked number three behind only Collingwood and Brisbane.” Brown said. “So they are playing the right game style and it shows their work rate and speed from the contest.”
Good Kicking is Good Football
Gary Lyon believed there was a more fundamental reason. “I might have one that is even more important. The ability to get it through the two big white sticks which is pretty handy because in the past they’ve been horrible. They were horrible when you (Riewoldt) were there,” Lyon said.
“The past seven years I think,” Riewoldt replied.
“Now from a goal kicking point of view we let players of the hook to easily but some of the stuff that was missed on the weekend was just appalling. They [St Kilda] kicked 12.1. Why? Eleven from the corridor. They took 11 shots from the corridor and only one from outside.”
Riewoldt agreed. “They are attacking the goal face and with Max King and with Tim Membrey, who is undersized but a really good aerial player, the ground level players they’re just getting great shots 15-20 metres out,” he said.
How Much Can You Gain in a Week?
Gerard Whateley and Mark Robinson were almost equally as excited on AFL 360, with the pair impressed by the Saints twin wins in Adelaide in the space of five days. “How much can you gain in a week,” was the question posed by Whateley. “Well that was St Kilda who twice went to Adelaide Oval. The first time just did enough to win and the second time, they were terrific!” he said.
Co-Host Robinson agreed. “They were awesome. Absolutely awesome. Again, just watching the game,” he enthused. “The beauty of this season, we’ve had hours and hours of debate about Rowan Marshall and Patrick Ryder, ‘you can’t play them both’ ‘Marshall’s a better a player if he’s in the ruck’,” he opinioned, “
So the coaches don’t listen to anybody else. No we are going to try to expose and exploit Peter Ladhams, they have the sole ruckman, we are going to go in with our two ruckmen. I notice in the coaches votes tonight they didn’t get first and second-best afield, I think they got fourth or fifth they were both in the votes, I think Zak Jones was the leading contender,” the Herald Sun scribe said.
Ryder and Marshall’s combined output was enough to prompt a change of heart from Riewoldt on On The Couch. “I’ve been a big advocate for playing just playing Rowan Marshall one out as the ruckman but when the facts change, then I’m happy to change my opinion. So if Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall can deliver what they delivered on the weekend. Giving first use and also hitting the scoreboard when they are playing as forwards, then absolutely you go ahead with the two of them,” he said.
Johnathan Brown explained how it enabled the Saints midfield to shine. “They both scored in the coaches votes, which is great, so the first time they have contributed together. So it’s a domination around there, Ryder especially he was so dominant in the centre square. The St Kilda midfielders are able to get on the fly they are able to get proactive,” he said.
Gary Lyon believed Ryder’s omission in recent weeks was the genesis of his performance against the Power. “It looked like he had a foot up his backside. Paddy Ryder,” he said.
“I think he has got to be held on the edge,” Gerard Healy agreed before Lyon continued. “It looked like he’d been dropped and he thought if I don’t do something it’s going to pass me by and he came back and played on the edge. Not the softer stuff that he’s been playing,” Lyon said.
Healy praised the big man’s work rate. “I think he’s second efforts were greatly better than I’ve seen for a period of time and if you can add a fair bit more running to that then there is another level for him to improve,” he enthused.
Riewoldt was most excited that both players could excel after their struggles together earlier in the season. “It wasn’t just his form, it was almost suppressing Marshall’s form aswell when the two of them were playing together. So this is the first time they’ve really both turned it on the same game and you want to see more of it but it was a great start,” he said.
Man of Steele
AFL360 highlighted the form of another key Saint.
“Jack Steele,” Mark Robinson enthusiastically suggested.
“Isn’t he in good form?” Gerard Whateley responded.
“I argued today that you could argue that he is the most valuable player in the competition,” Robinson stated. “Not the best. Sit on the best players, get 20 yourself and fight like hell for the ball everytime it comes near you. Man, he’s going sensationally,” he said.
Learning Their Lesson
The manner of the victory was also cause for excitement among the various panels. “This was a mature victory,” Mark Robinson told Gerard Whateley and AFL360’s viewers. “Now you can be lucky in wins and snag/jag a goal and get out it or, you can fight like hell for three quarters and break the opposition and then put their foot to the throat and run away by six goals. That’s a powerhouse performance on the road. Other than West Coast, that was the most impressive performance of the weekend,” he said.
Whateley considered it a warning to the 17 other teams in the competition. “So don’t be weary against St Kilda was the first message of that,” he said. “I just feel like they ran out of puff Port, and all of a sudden there was an onslaught late. They had to do all the grind to get to that point of breaking them but don’t be weary against St Kilda because they will just run out of sight.”
Robinson believed it represented an important change in the team’s psyche. “I accused them of not having yet the killer attitude because they were five goals up in two previous games,” he said. “And the really strong teams that finish top four and MCG 90,000 qualifying final / preliminary final the joint is going nuts, you’ve got to have the kill mentality. I think sometimes you’ve got to grow that and I think they’ve been hit between the eyes by a lot of criticism – ‘you haven’t got it, you haven’t got the kill mentality’ – and when it was next presented to them they went and smashed a team into the turf. To me, that was a significant part of that performance,” he said.
“They learnt their lessons well from the Fremantle result,” Whateley pondered.
“They did. They did,” Robinson agreed.
“It’s one thing to experience it and it’s another to get and implement the lesson and they clearly have,” Whateley concluded.
Coach of the Year?
On Footy Classified, Matthew Lloyd believed that Brett Ratten deserved high praise for the Saints response to the two comeback defeats earlier in the season. “Brett Ratten, he’s been the coach of the year, I think, with what he’s done,” Lloyd said. “I know Stewie Dew’s been good but Brett Ratten. He’s had two poor losses in terms of the North game in Round One and Fremantle, but that win on the weekend was one of the wins of the year you would have thought with what he has done. He has altered their game styles since that Fremantle defeat,” he said.
Kane Cornes believed that Ratten had proven that coaches could benefit from a second chance and used the coach’s own words to illustrate why. “We spoke to him on Friday,” Cornes said. “And asked him if he is a better coach second time around.”
“I think I’m more balanced in my approach and you can’t beat experience in learning some of the life lessons,” Ratten told Cornes on SEN Radio. “Probably from a management point of view I was only a young coach and trying to manage people and things like that probably wasn’t in my skill set and it’s been something that I’ve tried to work on. There’s always some good things when your youthful but I think I’m more grounded as a coach now,” the Saints coach said.
Are You Experienced?
It prompted Cornes to put forward a list of other coaches who, like Ratten, could thrive if given another chance. “About to turn 50 years of age Brett Ratten, no doubt he is a better coach and a better man-manager this time around. Begs the question about these coaches that had a crack it didn’t work and are they ready and would they be better coaches second time around?
“We have gone away from it and we haven’t given sacked coaches or coaches that have been moved on a second chance. Maybe Brett Ratten is showing the blueprint of what you can get second time around,” Cornes said.
It wasn’t all serious though, there was a few humourous observations.
On the Lighter Side.
On hearing the Saints improvement in goal kicking, Gerard Healy observed tongue in cheek. “Ben Dixon was the kicking coach there for a couple of years. He always said there was a latent period of 12 months for it to kick in.”
The team’s mindfulness exercises weren’t missed by the team on Footy Classified, who made mention of it during their Good Call, Bad Call segment. Matthew Lloyd asked Kane Cornes if Rodney Eade got out of coaching at the right time.
“It’s a great call, he wouldn’t have put up with this,” Cornes responded. “We know he lost his marbles from time to time in the coaches box. This is what they’re doing the youngsters now just breathe big deep breaths a bit of mindfullness to calm themselves down. Perhaps Rodney could have used that but I’m not sure modern coaching is suited to him.”
Jack Sinclair was the unfortunate subject of Gary Lyon’s bad in On The Couch’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from the weekend. Sinclair earning Lyon’s ire for sprinting from the opposite wing to the interchange straight past a marking contest that he could have added another number at. Nick Riewoldt wouldn’t stand for it and defended his former team mate. “Discipline Gary, discipline,” he said to Lyon, before directing his message to Sinclair. “Coachable Jack, that is brilliant. Way to follow instructions.”